Rocket Steps. The art of communication.

A Much Needed Break in the capital of comics

I finally got around to taking a short holiday.  I planned on taking a break in December, and as I write this it’s now June. This is a short personal blog about taking a break and work life balance.

I’d intended to have a holiday for months, and just kept putting t off.  I told myself I was too busy. I was at first too busy to take a break, but when I had the time there wasn’t anywhere I could think of I really wanted to  go.  After a couple of  long conversations with good friends to tease out some real excuses, I slowly admitted to myself that I didn’t want to travel alone.

A work trip would have been no problem. I can travel with friends just fine. Travel to gigs, even better -getting paid to go places! However as much as I wanted to travel solo, which I’ve done plenty of, mostly to the USA;  free-time and unplanned ‘nothing’ was proving a lot harder.

At some point quite recently doubts had crept into my mind  about travelling to another country where I didn’t know the language or culture, and the potential for loneliness. I’d instinctively try to pack as much into my  schedule as possible, for fear that if I ran out of things to do I’d be left to my own thoughts in a beautiful place with no one to share the experience.

Angloueme is a town in Southern France, about an hour East of Bordeaux by train. The self proclaimed ‘capital of comics’ with a dedicated museum. Streets and buildings pay homage to Herge (Tintin), Rene Goscinny (Asterix) and many other classic European comics characters. I’d wanted to go there since I was a student.

Getting Unstuck

Recalling this place during those conversations was key to getting unstuck. The desire to travel and visit outweighed the doubts that had crept in, and off I went to France. I had an amazing time. It was even fun getting lost in Bordeaux on the way back to the airport.

I don’t want a big moral to this experience, but there’s no harm in reminding myself and others to keep talking. It’s more work life balance than mental health, but the two are related. When writing my personal journal as I do from time to time, the two mainly questions I try to answer are ‘what are my goals?’ and ‘how do I feel about stuff?’ – and they are always changing and developing.

Keep Moving.

Manchester Road Runners
Manchester Road Runners ‘Run and Talk’ Mental Health Champions

I recently joined ‘run and talk‘ an incentive created by England Athletics and organised by one of the members of my local running club, Manchester Road Runners. Anyone attending the weekly run can speak to a ‘Mental Health Ambassador’. We’re not trained counsellors and we’ve can’t advise, but we can listen and point people in the right direction.  The shirts are nice too.

Video production for the University of Manchester

Illustration, motion graphics and voice work combine in this video production for The University of Manchester.

Back in January I started work on a video  project for The University of Manchester. The brief was to celebrate and publicise their ‘school governors initiative’, a programme where university staff help schools and colleges to improve, and in turn provide an opportunity for self development for those that volunteer.

Their initiative has won a handful of awards and I was keen to create a video would do justice to the hard work and accolades won by Alison, Stephanie and the social responsibility team at the university.

This projects covers;

The Process

Working closely with the team, we started with the script.  Concept visuals were sketched out and then both were combined into a slideshow to give a rough idea of the story they wanted to tell, and how the visuals and voice over  would work together.

There was a lot of information to get across in the script including surveys and stats, so I considered it important that the illustrations carried a narrative. Two of the key scenes identified from the script were the establishing shot of the university itself and the big success of ‘over 1000 governors’.

Naturally the script went through revisions, and what started as a three minute video eventually expanded to around eight minutes to get the entire story told. It was a tough call to leave anything out,  so we decided to go ahead with the longer edit and treat it as a short film.

For the voiceover, I did the initial pass using a Snowball Blue microphone, which is perfect for voice work. Then dipped into the talent pool of my performer friends at Comedysportz, who individually have done voice work for talking books and video games and offered a handful of voices to choose from. After chosing Rob Hudson, a recording session took place, which was edited and synced up to the video.

Illustration and video animation for the University of Manchester
Illustration for the University of Manchester

The entire project took three months of working across a many different disciplines. Here’s the final result;


Technical info

  • Illustrations were sketched both  by hand and digitally then inked and coloured in ClipStudio.
  • Finished elements were imported into flash where other motion graphics were created.
  • The voice over  was recorded on a Snowball blue mic and edited in Audacity.
  • The video sections were edited together in Premiere.

Rocket Steps. The art of communication.

Rocket Steps Ltd - The Art of Communication

The Art of Communication

Showcase portfolio of John Cooper. Media creative working in Comedy, Illustration, Improvisation and Public speaking.